In decades past, canned peaches were one of the most popular ways Americans consumed this fruit. The low cost and convenience of a can, which could be stored in the pantry and opened at anytime, had housewives across the country using them almost daily in the 40's, 50's and 60's. Now of course they've fallen out of favor versus frozen peaches and more exotic types of produce. Are canned peaches good for you? Or are they less nutritious?
There are a few ways to answer this question. Here are the factors to consider.
Antioxidant Content - The ORAC value of the canned version is 436 versus 1,922 for fresh peaches. In other words, when you eat them from a can you are getting about 1/4 the amount of antioxidants, when compared on an equal weight basis. This is a pretty stark contrast. With many vegetables such as corn, the difference is not so high between the two versions. A value of 436 is almost the same as iceberg lettuce, which most of us would agree is not very nutritious!
Vitamin Content - Using the same 100 gram weight for comparison, canned peaches provide 6% of your daily value for vitamin C versus 11% when eating them raw and fresh. So essentially, how much vitamin C you get from the canned version is half. Vitamin A on the other hand is comparable between the two; 7% for raw and 6% for canned. These results are not surprising considering the fact that vitamin C is destroyed by heat, so during the manufacturing process when they are heated/cooked to destroy bacteria in the can, it also destroys a good amount of the C content. Meanwhile vitamin A is not very affected by heat, which is why you still see most of it preserved. In terms of others, such as your essential B vitamins, E, and K, the amounts are similar for both but because peaches are such poor sources for these (less than 5% of daily value for each) they're not a factor worth much consideration.
Mineral Content - This fruit is a lackluster source for minerals no matter how you eat it. The one it has in most abundance, potassium, is only at 5% of daily value. All the others such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium come in at 3% or below. Since minerals are not affected by heat, the little amount you get should be the same regardless of the form you consume them.
Acrylamide & Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) - One of the biggest reasons canned peaches may be bad for you - or at least less nutritious - is because of a compound called acrylamide which is formed when carbohydrates (sugars) are heated. During the canning process of virtually any type of food, the heating of the cans may create this substance, which is a suspected carcinogen. Find out more about acrylamide in food. Though it's worth nothing that this fruit shouldn't be scrutinized any more or any less than other canned products.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) - Last on the list is BPA, which even today, is still used in the linings of most canned products. Even brands of organic peaches may still use it. When buying them, make sure it's from a manufacturer who only uses BPA-free cans.
Conclusion? Are canned peaches healthy? They're certainly better than a lot of other foods you could be eating, but this form is not the best for you. Seek out fresh and organic whenever possible.
USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 - Prepared by Nutrient Data Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - May 2010